Flavorful and fresh, this is a totally effortless pasta salad recipe, perfect for picnics!
This perfect pasta salad has lots of tender pasta tossed with crunchy fresh veggies, cheese, and a simple vibrant, tangy dressing.
It fits seamlessly into any menu, serve it as a side for any gathering potluck or serve it as a refreshing make-ahead meal on a warm day.
Easy Pasta Salad
- Quick and easy, this recipe is the perfect way to showcase fresh seasonal veggies.
- It’s a great canvas for leftovers – toss in chopped chicken, leftover roasted veggies or cheeses you have on hand.
- Potluck perfect, this vibrant, flavorful salad is best made ahead of time.
- Prepare a double batch and voila! Serve it as a side at a summer cookout and keep a bowl for yourself as a light dinner or for workday lunches all week long.
Basic Pasta Salad Ingredients
The best pasta salad starts with the basics but can easily be customized.
Pasta – Any medium pasta shape works. Favorites include rotini pasta (or tri-color rotini), bow ties, or penne. Pasta with holes, ridges, or curls hold the dressing better.
Vegetables – Cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, and cucumbers are a great combo for color and crunch but really, any veggie goes. Try spring peas, corn kernels, sliced radishes, chopped spinach, or sundried tomatoes!
Flavors – Boost the flavor with red onion, a sprinkle of olives, or feta cheese.
Dressing – A light vinaigrette brings all the flavors together in any pasta salad recipe. Use the DIY dressing recipe below or use a bottled vinaigrette, Italian or Greek dressing.
Change it up, add in new textures and flavors. Almost anything goes in a cold pasta salad!
- Add a scoop of pesto, kalamata olives, or tapenade for a bold flavor.
- Add chicken, shrimp, or bacon bits for some extra protein.
- Swap out the feta for other cheeses like cubed mozzarella cheese or cheddar.
- Boost the flavor with marinated artichokes, or a squeeze of lemon juice.
- Fresh herbs like basil, dill, or parsley add freshness and look pretty as a garnish. Fresh basil is best added before serving but dill or parsley can be added when preparing.
How to Make Pasta Salad
- Cook pasta to al dente, drain, and rinse in cold water.
- Chop vegetables and place them in a large bowl.
- Toss vegetables and pasta with dressing (per recipe below).
- Chill for 2 hours before serving.
Tips for Perfect Pasta Salad
- Cooking the pasta to al dente will keep it firmer as it soaks up the dressing.
- Dress very generously, as the pasta will soak up the dressing. For the best results, be generous with the dressing so the pasta can soak it up.
- Allow time for the pasta salad to chill in the fridge, the flavor will be so much better!
- Cut the add-ins fairly small so you get a bit of everything in every bite.
Storing Pasta Salad
- Make this simple summer salad a day ahead and keep it chilled until ready to serve!
- Keep leftover pasta salad in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Pasta doesn’t thaw well, so freezing pasta salad isn’t advised. But since it’s so easy to make, simply start a fresh batch!
Did you make this Pasta Salad Recipe? Be sure to leave a rating and a comment below!
Easy Pasta Salad Recipe
- 1 pound rotini or any medium pasta shape
- ⅔ cup feta cheese crumbled, more or less to taste
- 1 ½ cups English cucumber chopped
- 1 pint grape tomatoes halved
- 1 cup bell pepper any color, chopped
- ¼ cup sliced black olives optional
- ¼ cup red onions finely diced, or sliced green onions
- 1 cup Italian dressing or homemade dressing in the notes
- 3 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped
- salt & pepper to taste
- In a large pot, boil pasta in salted water until al dente (firm) according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water to cool.
- Meanwhile, chop the cucumber, grape tomatoes, bell pepper, and red onions.
- In a large bowl, combine your cooked and cooled pasta, prepared vegetables, Italian dressing, and fresh parsley. Toss well to coat.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste and gently stir in feta cheese.
- Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving to allow the flavors to blend and the pasta to soak in the dressing.
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 1 clove minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon each dried oregano and basil
- 1 teaspoon each honey and Dijon mustard
- While whisking, very slowly drizzle in 1/2 cup olive oil until incorporated. Season with salt & pepper to taste.
Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.
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